Hairy

November 28, 1990|By Rick Horowitz

BIG NEWS from our ''If Science Marches On, Why Don't I See Any Drum Majorettes?'' file: Researchers at Cambridge University -- that's in England -- have just announced that they've grown human hair in a test tube for the very first time.

''This is the real thing,'' claims the leader of the research team, who's been trying to learn just how hair grows so he can come up with better ways to keep it growing instead of falling out.

A pretty terrific development, yes? You bet it is, especially if you're a bald guy who happens to live in a test tube, or a bald guy who already wears test tubes on your head. For the rest of us, the benefits are still a long way off.

What do I mean, ''a long way off?'' Maybe 10 years, the scientists say; even with this latest breakthrough, there may not be an effective treatment for baldness for close to a decade.

And what do I mean, ''us?'' Well, Tonto, most of the people losing most of the hair in question are males of a certain, a certain, maturity. Old hair falls out, nothing comes along to replace it; it's one of the traumas of aging, right up there with the aching back and the shrinking belt.

That's what I've heard, at least. Now, I myself happen to have a perfectly luxurious head of hair. I know this for a fact because I've started scooping piles of it out of the bathtub every morning, and it's perfectly luxurious, every disconnected strand of it.

So I'm familiar with the possibilities. You say your ancestors never left you anything -- but what about that surprise package they slipped into your gene pool? There you are, combing your hair and minding your own business, when somebody throws the switch from beyond the grave, and suddenly it's locks a-tumbling.

Actually, I think it's called ''male pattern baldness.'' That's because every male who has ever lost even a little off the top follows exactly the same pattern.

Step 1: Denial. ''No-I'm-not.'' Or, ''It's a bad haircut, that's all -- it'll grow out.''

Step 2: Awareness. The victim notices the shape of his skull; that's never happened before. Either the skull is getting bumpier, or the hair that used to cover it is getting thinner. The victim briefly considers a career in phrenology, decides that the only thing his skull bumps could tell him about his personality, he already knows: He's not the slightest bit interested in going bald.

Step 3: Confusion. ''Do I shampoo more vigorously to improve the blood flow? Or do I shampoo more gently to hang on to what's left?''

Step 4: Cover-up. New hairstyles appear. The victim is suddenly combing hair down across his forehead (his forehead used to have its own hair) and over the crown. He buys a second mirror to check out the rear view. He stays indoors when it's windy.

Step 5: Treatment (Amateur). The search is on for the proper conditioner -- something that'll thicken the hair shaft to the diameter of the average telephone pole. And maybe a combination cream rinse and shoe polish, for a bit of matching scalp color.

Step 5a: Treatment (Professional). The victim starts noticing all the magic-elixir ads in the sports section of the newspaper. But the small type is so small, with so many disclaimers and instructions, that the victim starts to worry that his eyes will give out before his hair comes back. In his most desperate hours, the victim may even consider hair weaves and toupees. He wonders: ''Do I want to turn my scalp into an arts-and-crafts project?'' Or, ''Will I mind looking like there's a muskrat on my head?''

Step 6: Acceptance. Never happens.

Hurry up, you guys.

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